How Many Speakers?

After listening to the podcast discussion about surround sound in the Lab it got us wondering just how many speakers is enough for Home Theatre.

The standard is obviously 5.1, with five speakers and a dedicated subwoofer. But we recently supplied speakers and amplification for a What Hi-Fi? demonstration at the Stuff Live Show for a 7.2 system, and looking at the specifications on most surround sound receivers we wondered whether you used 5.1, 6.1, 7.2 or any other multiples of speakers. Let us know.


  • Pete says:

    I think 5.1 is enough.
    Perhaps, I think if someone want to add speakers to his setup, it should be a subwoofer to even bass response within the room.
    There is not enough material out there encoded in 6.1 or 7.1 to justify the buy of additional speakers for me..

  • Erwin says:

    I think an infinite amount would be ideal… Something like the hemisphere in the Cornwall Eden Project.

    I am kidding ofcourse, but I was looking into the matter because I am designing my own new house with a hometheatre / multipurpose room. i read about the new 11.2 Audissey DSX and 9.2 PLIIz. I tried a pair of extra front height speakers on my Yamaha RX-V2700 receiver and I have to admit it provides more dept during PS3 war games and more scale during Star Wars battle scenes.
    It’s all distilled from the 5.1 discrete channels ofcourse.

    In the real world, it all comes down to the room size and shape: if the room is deep and the seats are far from the back wall, one can add rear speakers.
    I doubt many rooms can be used with the front “wide” speaker from DSX. Height should be no problem since the TV/screen is mostly put against a wall (and you can put height speakers even in the ceiling). Even the cheapest new Pioneer receiver now has the choice between rears and heights (PLIIz)

    Most important improvement would be the addition of a second subwoofer though.

  • Allan says:

    I have a 7.1 system with active subs in towers, and a stand alone sub for a total of three, I am still saving for one more because of uneven bass. This is wilth Audyssey room correction. I want to have subs in my end tables, should take care of the problem. The next big upgrade to surrround sound would be filling in the gap between the front mains, and side surrounds. That’s the place I notice something is missing in surround sound. I am considered an audio nut by my frineds, and have always arrranged the room around the sound system, but I am not able to add anymore speakers because of practical reasons. Filling the main to surround gap is the last significant step I think. I don’t find myself wishing the sound was ‘taller’; maybe a overhead ceiling speaker for movies might make more sense. Definetly don’t need more channels in the rear.

  • Jeppe says:

    To me 7.2 seems like the ideal solution.. 2 woofers for ideal bass balance.. Side and rear speakers for the larger soundfield.. But the lack of 7,1 recordings makes it a “no go” .. So for the time beeing my aim is another woofer so i can get to 5.2 . In the future, who knows?

  • Celt16 says:

    I wired and implemented 7.1 3 or 4 years ago – all B&W and Classe (803 Matrix, 805 Matrix(3), DS6, and ASW 850 – but have to echo the sentiment that the content hasn’t caught up … have toyed with buying a 2-channel Processor for sound only, but haven’t … funding, room, etc

  • Tim Coleman says:

    I’m shooting for minimum 9.2 ultimately 11.2. I’ve been using 7.2 for 2 years and frankly the more quality audio I can get my hands on the better. The technology is available and constantly improving. BRING IT ON.

  • Ivan says:

    I agree with Pete although I do have a 7.1(all B&W) setup using all channel listening mode, I am constantly making changes to achieve the audio bliss that warms my soul. I doubt that even most 5.1 systems sound the way they should due to lack of knowledge and equipment to achieve an acceptable quality of sound that would satisfy the normal ear. I say this coming from my own experience and learning curve that I have had to experience, I doubt that the majority of av recievers are capable of handling even 5 loudspeakers let alone 7 or 9 or whatever all excluding active sub woofers, then of course we have the problem with impulse response for all loudspeakers can really sound terrible if not setup properly. Given this, to power even a 5.1 system properly is asking a lot from the echo sytem already, I mean we have already lost the Plasma tv due to this.

  • Steph says:


    I really struggle to see the need for a center.

    Listen to music on a pair of 800 series speakers… You don’t need to add a center imho.

  • Michael says:

    The more, the merrier. There is a lot of 7.1 content now on BDs, but something expandable to a theoretical infinite array would be ideal, such as the old CircleSuround or Dolby Atmos. The Object based formats of today are very exciting. I listen to most things in 7.1, even if it’s just a matrix encoded soundtrack up-rezzed using Dolby PLIIx or DTS Neo. Even good orchestra recordings sound great in 7.1 Dolby PLIIX Music mode.

  • Jim Scott says:

    very interesting thread but hold on to your hats! coming with 8K video 20.2 Dolby audio. What will we do with all those speakers?

  • Ivan says:

    I’m adept of stereo. High quality acoustics is big. Several channels consume all room.

  • Ed van Stralen says:

    I use the 4.1 and sometimes 4.0 because i listen mostly music and listening to music is in mine opinion better without center.

  • del Sol says:

    2 ears………..2 speakers!

    The whole surround thing is rubbish.

    How many times do you need to hear the dog bark, the car door slam, the rain pour down, the phone ring,…. ad nauseam.

  • f1only says:

    I’m happy using a B&W 5.2.4 system with a Pioneer amp

  • Scoobs says:

    I have been using the MT1 speaker system, PV1 amp along with a Sony amp for the past 9 years. The sound is truly brilliant and a joy to listen to.

  • Jos Verheijden says:

    With B&W speakers and a good amplifier two speakers is enough!
    I have two CM8-s2 powered by a Rotel RB 1582 mk2 and a HTM 62 center speaker powered by a Marantz receiver.
    For watching tv I use a 3.0 setup.
    For watching music dvd I mostly use 2.0 stereo. This sounds far better than 5.1 because of the powerfull Rotel/CM8 combination.
    For watching action dvd 5.0 would sound better (but I never watch action movies).

  • werner says:

    I have bought the CM6 S2 as fronts in a 5.1 setup with Marantz 7010 and have CM centre S2.
    I wish B&W would include in their website some more detailed insight, approved by their sound engineers about
    cross over settings for each model speaker and wich combinations works best, for example CM6 + CM centre 2 S2 will that work (the whole debate about mixing 2 way speakers with 3 ways speakers, does that work soundwise)
    because on forums, you will be told all kinds of diffrent things some true and some not.
    I think the manufacturer should provide the end user with the right info, in stead of having to spend hours, days scavenging forums… Manuals provided with the speakers are limited as to sound settings. Some people try to get the best out of their system, but i would want to know from the people who designed it. Maybe you could show combinations that work well, especially concerning centre speakers. I am a true B&W fan and admire the way they build and design their speakers & headphones, the choice of materials. Their website is also an example to others, very well done.

  • Bowers & Wilkins says:

    We have dedicated customer support technicians who will be more than happy to advise the best setup for your system, please use the following link to get in touch with them today;

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